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Acid Tests

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008 by Mike Cheley

The Internet has truly emerged as a primary channel by which information is distributed and shared across the globe. This in turn has made the use of web browsers a necessity among the 1.4 billion internet users worldwide. Although a vast majority of these users pay little or no attention to the web browsers they use, there is an ongoing struggle between the web development community and browser companies to serve web pages to all internet users the right way. Right in the middle of this struggle are web standards and one of its more recent byproducts, acid tests.

Acid tests have become a widely recognized method for determining a web browser’s compliance with web standards as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium. Since the creation of the Acid1 test by Todd Fahrner in 1998, three tests have been released with the most recent being completed in March of this year. Each of the three tests has targeted a different aspect of the web and each test is further discussed below.

The Acid1 test was designed to check browser compatibility with the HTML 4.0 and CSS1 specifications. An ingenious feature of Acid1 was that all the tests were consolidated into one page. Moreover, the test results were displayed by means of a visual rendering which could be compared to a reference image to determine the test results. These features made the test very accessible and easy to use and thus, the Acid1 test was used as an inspiration for succeeding Acid tests.

It was not until April 2005 that Ian Hickson released the Acid2 test which focused on assessing browser compatibility with HTML and more extensively, the CSS2 specification. The popularity of the Acid2 test increased in part, because of its promotion by The Web Standards Project, a coalition that fights for web standards. Although most web browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Opera and Konqueror took notice of the test and worked on their products to pass it, the world’s most popular browser, Internet Explorer, did not follow suit. Nevertheless, because of its increased acceptance among web browser developers, the Acid2 test can be hailed a success.

Three short months ago the Acid3 test, which focuses on “Web 2.0” technologies such as the Document Object Module Level 2, CSS2, CSS3, and XHTML1.0, was released. This marked another step towards the goal of standardizing the web. In line with this goal, most major browsers seemed to be looking towards Acid3 as one of the main factors to test their browser’s standards compliance by. Surprisingly, just 23 days later, Opera announced that they had passed the test and the Webkit team soon followed with a passing score a few days later. Being that the test is relatively new, it will be interesting to see how other browser companies score in the Acid3 test.

While only three acid tests have been released so far, they have come a long way in helping the web development community achieve standards for the web. On the other hand, the Acid tests should not be viewed as a be all and end all towards browser testing, but simply as a guide by which to view the community’s progress by. Having said that, it is encouraging to see that both individuals and organizations are working together and making progress towards the ultimate goal, which is standards on the web.

Try the Acid tests yourself. Click on the following links to test your browser.

Acid1 | Acid2 | Acid3

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